Shades of Grey and Black

Not Every Addition is Crazy

The bright light enveloped them and in a blink, they stood back in the circular Tower room. There was a whump as the abomination's body hit the ground, going still next to Niall's. Ffion stared down at both and felt more tired than ever. She wanted this to be done, she didn't want to fight Uldred, didn't want to deal with anymore abominations and she was ready to scream... or start crying uncontrollably. She wasn't sure which one was going to come first. It felt as though she had been up and fighting for days, though it was clear the time passed very differently in the Fade. It had been just moments before that the demon trapped them and the Warden was too tired to be impressed by this.


Alistair was questioning, not seeing the play of emotions on her face. Leliana, however, who watched the young Warden with a knowing gleam in her pale blue eyes, stepped forward and bent over Niall's body. She rifled through the robe's pockets and finally pulled the scroll from one of them. Turning back to the group, she held this up.

"Let us finish this," She commented and her eyes were bright.

Wynne pulled a potion bottle from her belt and she held it out to Ffion. The Warden glanced up at her, frowning in confusion.

"This will help a little," The enchanter explained, "Leliana's right, we have to see this through."

Ffion downed the potion and felt a little of her strength return. She shifted her belt and then the blades at her back and nodded to the scroll in the Orlesian's hands.

"How does that work?" She asked, "I don't quite understand what Niall meant. I remember you saying that it fights blood magic, but how?"

"I will use it," Wynne answered and accepted the scroll from Leliana, "If Uldred is trying to turn the mages, I will be able to recognize when he uses his power. The magic within this scroll will be more powerful than his and as long as it's used in time, it will stymie him no matter what."

"It's time to teach the bastard a lesson, then," Alistair's voice was determined and his honey colored eyes were hard.

They banded together once more and Ffion was thrilled to see Tilly at her side where she belonged. Wynne led the way to the next floor and into a foyer-type room. There, a few of the bookshelves were still standing upright and they pressed on, stepping over toppled chairs and overturned tables. Books, scrolls, and loose papers scattered everywhere; a tipped lamp here and there had scorched the rich rugs and left black smudges on the stone floor. Ahead of them was another door and they had just about reached it when they heard the voice.

"Wynne?" It was a young woman's voice and there was a shuffling from a deeply shadowed corner of the room just to their left, "Is it really you?"

A mage about Ffion's age stepped from the corner, sheltering four small children behind her. She was grim, her face dirty and smudged with dust from hiding, but that did nothing to conceal her beauty. She had delicate features with a slim nose and full lips, her cheekbones were more pronounced with the determined set of her jaw and her green eyes were large, serious, and very intelligent. Her pale blonde hair kept falling forward into her eyes as it slipped from a once elegant twist and small, graceful hands gripped her staff tightly.

"Thank the Maker," She murmured as she saw Wynne more fully. The children responded to the relief in her voice and edged closer, not wanting to let their protector too far from their reach, "This has been awful."

It was then that the others could see she had been hiding the young ones in a large wardrobe. She must have been in the middle of seeing if the coast was clear when Ffion's band came along.

"Solona?" Wynne said finally, getting over her surprise and easing the hold on her staff, "My dear, what on earth are you doing up here?"

Solona swept a hand back towards the children and one of the little girls darted to take hold of her. The others were encouraged by this and they all crowded around the mage. She placed the base of her staff on the ground so she could lean on it.

"It was my day to tutor and, well, you know how I like to teach," A ghost of smile creased her tired face though her voice was as exhausted as Ffion felt, "We were in the middle of our treasure hunt when the commotion started. I just had time to hide them and I watched while Uldred and a few other mages took the First Enchanter through those doors. I think they were headed for the Harrowing chamber, but I didn't want to risk these ones to... whatever was coming next. Wynne, what's going on? No one has come out yet and I swear I could hear... screams."

The little girl whimpered, responding to the fear in Solona's voice just as she responded to the relief. The young mage didn't let this stop her protective watch over the children and she extricated her fingers from the girl's and rubbed her back soothingly. Her green eyes didn't leave Wynne though.

"From what I have seen and what Pila told us, Uldred is attempting to take over the Tower," The enchanter spoke carefully, clearly not sure how much she should reveal, "There's a lot to tell us he was using blood magic... and he possibly could be possessed."

Solona looked stricken and her hand squeezed briefly at the girl's shoulder when they shook with silent sobs. For as young as the girl was, she understood fully what those words meant and Solona tried to comfort her.

"Hush, Mina, I won't let anyone harm you," She said and then looked back at Wynne, "Blood magic... again? I was hoping... After what happened with Jowan and Lily that... Oh, what a mess!"

"Jowan?" Ffion asked, her surprise getting the better of her, "You're the Solona that... Jowan's friend?"

"Yes, well, I was," Solona frowned, "Wait, how do you know Jowan? I thought he disappeared for good."

"Blood mages never go away," Alistair muttered.

"We don't have time for this," Leliana cut in, not wanting the ex-Templar to flaunt his prejudices now. She happened to agree with him, to an extent, but now was neither the time nor place to argue the virtues and vices of magic use, "Who knows what damage has been done already."

The others readily agreed with this and Solona looked torn. She glanced between the children behind her and Wynne, and her lips parted.

"They need you more right now, my dear," The enchanter said quietly, gently. She read Solona's face with ease and hoped to put a quick stop to her train of thinking, "You are doing the right thing, protecting them."

"But if you're facing blood magic, you'll need all the help you can get," Solona argued. Her hand reached down and grasped Mina's, "Mina, love, I want you to go and hide in the cupboard again. Keep the others safe and calm; I'll come and get you as soon as I can and we'll finish our treasure hunt."


"Can you promise me that?"

Solona was bent before the little girl, looking her directly in the eyes and it reminded Ffion so much of herself and Oren that she changed tactics and didn't interrupt again.

"Yeah, of course I can," Mina answered and they could practically see the magic dancing from her fingertips, "But is it wrong to do my magic when you're not here?"

"No, love," Solona answered, shaking her head, "No. When you're protecting those who can't take care of themselves, when you're protecting yourself, it's magic you have to use. Don't be afraid, Mina, just take care of them."

"I will, Sol, I promise," Mina said solemnly, acting much older than she looked.

Solona brushed the girl's vibrant red hair back with one hand and then kissed her forehead.

"Good girl," She straightened and looked at the others, "Listen to Mina and don't open the door to that cupboard unless you hear my voice or the senior enchanter's. You understand? Good, now go on. And be careful."

She waited until the cupboard was shut tight and all was quiet. Taking her staff up in her hand, she turned to them and her face was determined.

"Let's go," She said firmly and wasn't about to be talked out of helping, "I'll do whatever you need."

Wynne would have argued, but Ffion went to the door ahead of them and stopped any discussions before they started. She wasn't ready to listen to the two mages go at it and when she opened this door and started for the next, she didn't have to worry about it. Four abominations sprang up from the ground as she reached for the doorknob and, after seeing firsthand what sort of damage Solona could do with her magic, she was ready to side with her no matter what anyone said.

The young woman was as adept with damaging magic as Wynne was with healing. Morrigan was perhaps more spontaneous with her spells, giving her a slight edge since no one knew where she intended to fire, but Solona concentrated. Her blasts of ice, fire, and stone dealt more damage than the witch's. The demons didn't stand a chance and they were gone in no time. What they weren't prepared for was what came next.

In the room they entered, there was yet another short flight of steps. And beside this a young man was trapped behind a pale purple wall that shimmered rather dangerously. His blond head was bowed, both hands covering his ears as he mouthed his prayers silently. The Templar armor gleamed in the poor light and he was clearly a well-built young man. Solona gasped and rushed towards him before they could stop her.

"Cullen?" She said softly, uncertainly, one hand reaching towards the wall and stopping short of touching it.

The Templar's hazel eyes came open and focused solely on Solona. His handsome face crumpled in something like despair and he dropped to his knees. He buried his face in his hands as though accepting a defeat none of them could understand.

"How far they must have delved into my thoughts," He said fiercely, refusing to look up at any of them, "The bastards! Tempting me with the one thing that I always wanted and could never have...! Using my own shame against me... My ill-advised, stupid, infatuation with her... A mage of all things!"

"Oh!" Solona dropped her hand, her cheeks flooding with bright color as she understood what he was saying. Her green eyes flashed to them quickly and then away, barely flickering over Cullen, "Oh dear!"

"Stupid, pathetic... Damn it!" The Templar's voice was sharp and violent and he glared up at Solona with such vehemence, she stepped back, "Be gone, demon, I'm not ready to give in to you yet."

Ffion had moved to stand next to Solona and she was just as surprised by Cullen's anger. He looked at them in a confused, hopeless sort of way, his eyes flickering between all of them before landing on Solona again. He slowly got to his feet, backed away and began to pace restlessly.

"I... I don't understand," He said and his voice was desperate, "That's always worked before. Please, if you're going to kill me, do it now. Don't wait and torture me. It's better to die at the... supposed hands of someone I care about than a complete stranger."

"Cullen..." Solona murmured, reaching for a second time and looking between him and Ffion beseechingly, "Please, Cullen, don't think or say such things. I am not a vision; I'm real; just like those with me."

He tried his best to ignore this and Wynne stepped in.

"Cullen, listen to Solona," Her voice was tempered, motherly, and her blue eyes concerned, "She is telling you the truth."

The Templar's hazel eyes flickered to the enchanter and his frown deepened. His cheeks flushed much like Solona's and though he looked at her briefly, he was too embarrassed to keep eye contact. His lips parted to respond, but nothing came. Ffion, starting to hurt again and feeling her exhaustion creeping back, stepped closer but remained wary of the shimmering cage.

"It's not an illusion, Cullen," She added firmly, "We came to help. I promised the Knight-Commander that we would do whatever we could. Is there a way to-"

"Then you can't hesitate," Cullen interrupted and seemed to come to life, "You must destroy every mage in that room. I have been trapped here since this started and the noises coming from there... It's horrible, the screams and cries... Please, you can't hesitate."

Leliana's harsh intake of breath, Solona's blanching, and Wynne's open horror went unnoticed under Alistair's observation. He had moved closer, standing at Ffion's elbow next to Tilly.

"Can't you feel his hatred?" The ex-Templar's tone was much like Wynne's, though it had an edge that told them he knew firsthand Cullen's anger, "He's seen so many of his friends hurt and killed, too many, to feel anything else."

There was a sudden scuffle and crash from the next room and it seemed to fit Cullen's adamancy and Alistair's interpretation of it. Leliana responded to this more quickly then the others. Pale blue eyes lit and one of her hands reached back for her bow.

"We have tarried long enough," She said, "Ffion, what do you think?"

The Warden studied Cullen a moment longer. The Templar's hazel eyes fixed on her and he shook his head a little.

"Please, serah, you can't-"

"I can't make a decision without seeing this for myself," She interrupted and this time could hear her exhaustion, "That's all I can promise."

Cullen's shoulders sagged and though his gaze flickered briefly to Solona once more, he spoke to Ffion, his voice rough,

"Maker go with you then. I hope your mercy hasn't damned us all."

Ffion gave him a nod and turned away. Cullen had had his say and there was clearly nothing left to discuss. Solona was the only one that hesitated, looking searchingly at the Templar who had gone back to his prayers without a word. She extended one hand to the cage and then let it fall, instead murmuring quietly,

"Bless you, Cullen."

Ffion glanced back, smiling in encouragement as she went up the steps and opened the door to the next chamber. They crowded the doorway and couldn't help but stare at the scene before them.

A tall bald-headed mage was crouching in front of a young man wearing apprentice's robes and a cloth cowl. He spoke quietly to the younger mage whose terrified eyes were fixed on his face. On either side of him, two towering abominations stood guard and when the young man nodded his head, they reached forward and grasped his arms. The bald man stepped back with a smirk that was anything but comforting and cupped his hands together as the power surged through the room. A painful white-blue light enveloped the young mage and there was a horrific scream before the light flashed pure white and dissipated.

In the place of the mage was a third abomination and Wynne's harsh gasp drew the bald man's attention. He had started towards a group of four other mages and he turned about abruptly. His cold eyes were an even deeper black in the dim bluish light of the chamber and his pale skin made them glitter dangerously. Something about the way he stood, straight-backed and proud, struck Ffion and she suddenly knew where she had seen him before.

"You?" She said quietly, her surprise getting the better of her, "You were at Ostagar. How did you get away?"

"My dear girl," He chided, his voice colder than his eyes, "Why surprised that someone accomplished the same task? You were at Ostagar as well and I doubt you tell everyone you meet how you escaped. But that is not why we are here, is it?"

Wynne pushed up to stand beside Ffion and her blue eyes burned with righteous anger.

"No," She answered shortly, "Uldred, you must stop this madness. Greagoir is going to see that all the mages die because of your actions."

Uldred sighed and dismissed the enchanter with a mere flick of his wrist. His black eyes sought out Ffion and Alistair again and when he spoke, it was as though they were the only two he saw.

"She will persist in misunderstanding. But you two... I have watched you both since the beginning. Your drive, your ambition, is what I seek. This tower was altered to prevent all but the very strong from reaching this chamber and here you are. You asked how I escaped Ostagar... Demons are powerful beings and will do anything you ask if you give them a window," He paused and studied both the Wardens, a mad light entering his black gaze, "Can you imagine your ambition with the force of a demon behind it? You would be unstoppable! All the power you could ever want would be at your disposal. The ability to cut down anyone in your way and attain anything you wish!"

Ffion allowed herself to be tempted. All the power you could ever want... She couldn't help but imagine Howe, dead at her feet; every last one of his soldiers that took an active role in the destruction of her life being put to death. Extra attention given to those that raped and killed Oriana and cut down innocent little Oren, too, of course...

Some of her hesitation, her desire, was clear to Uldred and he fastened his attention on her but Alistair spoke before the mage could push further.

"No," He said and his voice was firm, uncompromising, "No, your demon downstairs tried the same damn trick and we bested him. We're not giving in to you this time either."

Ffion's grey eyes flashed to him, uncertain and angry that he would cut short the terms before they even started. Then Tilly whined, shoving her soft head into her lady's hand and successfully banishing the remnants of Uldred's spell. She steeled herself, rubbing the Mabari's ear briefly and then reached for her swords.

"He's right," She added and flipped the blades smoothly into her palms, "You bastards have dragged us through enough crap, it ends now."

Uldred searched each of their set, grim faces, his eyes burning even hotter as his face twisted into a deranged mask. He motioned to his three abominations and then gathered his power to him once more.

"So be it," He snarled.

His monsters advanced on the band as they fanned out to protect Wynne and Solona. The enchanter held her staff in one hand and the Litany in the other and gave Solona the first chance to fling magic. The three abominations were lifted partway off the floor by some unseen hand and slammed back into the flagstones. Two struggled to their feet, dazed, while the third remained still.

Ffion was impressed, but her eyes hadn't left Uldred. She had thought that he was attempting to turn another mage and was proved wrong. He himself morphed, rocketing up from the ground to tower almost twenty feet tall. His skin darkened and grew scaly as his girth swelled to match his height. His nose flattened, meeting with his mouth to form a sort of snout as his eyes became snake-like and menacing horns sprouted from his head, arching back to complete the face of a demon.

"Maker help us," Wynne's voice was barely audible over the sound of another abomination going down, "A pride demon!"

Alistair immediately focused his attention on Uldred, leaving the remaining monster to Solona's very proficient care. Ffion was hot on his heels and Tilly's growls and barks were the most intimidating that she'd heard. One of her knives glanced off the demon's jaw and then lodged just under one of the horns as two of Leliana's arrows sank into his neck. These things were mere annoyances to him and he fastened on Alistair as the ex-Templar's sword did more substantial damage to his belly.

He roared, swiping for Alistair who was much quicker than he looked. He darted between the demon's legs, jabbing his blade into the back of one. Yanking it out, he dodged away as Uldred slammed his fist down where the ex-Templar had been standing.

"Alistair, back!!" Solona hollered when it looked like he was going in to attack again.

He did as she asked and, a moment later, ice swept across the stone floor, hitting Uldred's legs and hindering his movements. Leliana took the opportunity to fire again and this time caused the demon pain. He howled in rage and then focused intently. Around the group of mages at the opposite end of the room a familiar blue light started and grew stronger, and then Wynne's voice shouted out the Litany.

Uldred's magic came to an abrupt halt and he raged once more. He broke free of Solona's magic and was across the room more quickly than any of them would have believed possible. Alistair wasn't nearly fast enough this time and the demon caught him up in one giant hand. The ex-Templar struggled, his blade flashing in the poor light as he stabbed at Uldred's wrist and fingers, to no avail.

"No!" Ffion shouted, fear sweeping through her so fiercely it was almost debilitating.

She ran forward, her swords at the ready, and struck at whatever she could reach. Tilly was with her and even Leliana left her safe perch and moved closer so her arrows would have more force. None of their attacks seemed to have an effect and Uldred gripped Alistair in the same way that the ogre had gripped Cailan. Ffion shouted again, trying to get the demon's attention, and Leliana's hands moved so quickly they were a blur. Wynne had dropped the Litany and was adding her magic, but it was Solona that saved the ex-Templar's life.

Her staff erupted with power and the force of it knocked Ffion, Tilly, and Leliana backwards and onto the floor. Uldred staggered and tossed his arms up in an attempt to keep his balance, while Alistair was suddenly airborne. He kept his wits though and grabbed hold of Uldred's spiky shoulder as he fell. Dragging himself up and struggling to keep his grip as the demon tried to rebound from Solona's spell, he clutched his blade in one hand and drove it into Uldred's neck.

The demon's breath went out in a harsh grunt and he stumbled a few more steps. Alistair debated whether or not to jump and then it was too late. Uldred's body stiffened momentarily and then went slack, dropping to the stone floor and sending the ex-Templar rolling away. He remained flat on his back, staring up at the chamber's ceiling and trying to catch his breath. His ribs ached in a way that told him the demon must have cracked or broken a couple, and when Ffion's worried face appeared above him and he could feel Wynne's healing magic, he found his voice again.

"You, my friend, are a beautiful sight," He said softly, not sure what made him so forward with her.

Ffion's face flamed and she mentally berated her mutinous emotions. She put one hand on his shoulder to help him sit up and fumbled for something to say.

"I was so afraid you were..." She stopped, her penchant for blurting anything that popped into her head failing her for probably the first time in her life. Her face burned again and she brushed a few loose strands of hair from her eyes as she finished quietly, "I'm glad you're okay."

"So am I," He answered and slowly got to his feet. His honey colored eyes went beyond her, "Thanks, Solona, that could have ended very badly."

The young mage was looking around the chamber, her large green eyes sad as she took in the destruction of what had been the only home she had ever known. She smiled a little at the ex-Templar's genuine appreciation, though, and nodded her head.

"You're welcome," She answered and started towards Wynne who had immediately gone to the other mages, "I wish it wouldn't have come to this, but Ffion is right, everyone is okay, and that's all that matters."

Alistair began cleaning the grime from his sword while Tilly patiently licked blood from one of her paws. Ffion took one step after the mages and stopped when Leliana spoke.

"Here, Ffion," The Orlesian's accented voice said.

The Warden turned and saw that she was holding out her little knife. It was clean and winking up at Ffion who accepted it gratefully. In Leliana's other hand was the bunch of arrows that had been fired at Uldred.

"Thanks," She said, "I'd hate to lose these."

"I cannot blame you," The Orlesian replied, "They are lovely little knives."

Ffion nodded, examining the knife and running one finger across the carvings in the hilt.

"Yeah, they are. They were gifts from... from a very dear friend of mine," She hesitated and then went on, "He was from up north, but I have had no word from him since I left for Ostagar with Duncan. He was part of the Cousland guard, and I'm not sure if he survived that assault."

Leliana's blue eyes studied her with such intensity that she couldn't keep eyes contact with her, which was about as good as confessing who she was. The Orlesian may have appeared to be rather simple-minded and innocent, but that clearly was not the case. And when she finally nodded her head and spoke again, Ffion knew that her secret would be safe, no matter what.

"Then keep them close, dear," She said, "There are still those that want to destroy everything belonging to the Couslands and we cannot let that happen, no?"

These words were meant for Ffion only and Alistair was not within earshot anymore anyway. Her grey eyes finally met Leliana's and she inclined her head, her exhaustion deeper than ever and making her more emotional than she liked.

"Thank-you," She murmured.

Leliana dimpled and then turned abruptly as Wynne, Solona, and the other mages approached. There were two other apprentices who were pale faced and shocked, though keeping it together; a mage a few years older than Solona, who was relieved to be alive once you looked past her apprehension; and the last an elderly man. His eyes were a deep hazel, much like Cullen's, and his beard and hair had long ago lost their deep brown. There was a small patch of it just to the left of his mouth and it made the white and grey of the rest look rather distinguished. Much to Ffion's surprise, he gave her a bow and reached out to grasp her hand in his.

"My dear, we owe you our lives," He said, his voice raspy with exhaustion. His green robes were rumpled and smudged here and there with dirt and blood, but when Solona placed his elegant staff in his free hand, he could not have appeared more regal, "The Circle would have been lost without you good people and we will forever be in your debt. But now, Wynne tells me that the Knight-Commander is awaiting your return, so let us officially end this. Solona, dear, would you give an old man your arm? I do not know what the mages of old were thinking, putting the Harrowing Chamber at the top floor."

They skirted Uldred who, in his death throes, had regained his human form. Ffion looked down at him and for one ridiculous, comical moment thought how good a thing that was. She had been wondering how the hell they were going to get the demon's huge form down those steps; and then they stood in front of Cullen again and she sobered.

The purple cage that had held the Templar captive was gone and he stood in front of the next doorway, his arms folded over his chest. He wasn't armed, so there was no concern on that front, but he glowered in such a way that no one was willing to put his patience to the test. In this state, he would be more than inclined to postpone them long enough for Greagoir to achieve his Right of Annulment.

Ffion wasn't about to allow it. She was dead on her feet, likely to collapse in the next few moments, and she wasn't going to let one Templar stand between her and a well-deserved rest. Not when she had already faced down too many demons to count and saved all their sorry asses at the risk of her own and her friends'.

"I still have not made my decision, Cullen," She told him in a firm voice and then continued when the Templar's hazel eyes went wide with astonishment, "I must speak with your commander. You can add your part of this story as well and we'll see what he says."

Cullen thought on that, clearly looking for any loop holes that she and the others could slip through, and was satisfied when it seemed a foolproof plan. Greagoir couldn't simply ignore a Templar's tale.

"Fair enough," He answered and turned to open the door.

He led the way, stopping to gather Solona's charges who were scared but safe, and then down to the first floor where Petra and the children still gathered. Pila was among them. The young mage sent Ffion a smile that was at the same time appreciative and troubled. She came close and started to speak but Ffion interrupted.

"I'll keep my promise, Pila," She said quickly, hoping the mage wouldn't say anything incriminating in Cullen's presence. She knew there was no way she'd vote to allow the Right of Annulment and she wanted the Templar believing she was still considering the situation until they were standing, with the First Enchanter, in front of Greagoir, "You were a tremendous help and that's all that needs to be seen."

Irving was the key to getting through the huge double doors that had been so ominously locked behind Ffion's band what felt like weeks ago. Greagoir, in spite of his assumed assurance that Annulment was the only answer, was downright happy to see the First Enchanter and none of Cullen's arguments could convince him that the Circle had to be destroyed. The only thing he couldn't promise was the Templars' aid in the fight against the Blight. Their attention had to be on protecting the mages from another such attack and Ffion reluctantly accepted this.

The mages, however, were more than ready to support her in anything. Those lucky enough to have been able to hide themselves from Uldred and his followers now cautiously trickled down from the different floors of the Tower, and they all wanted to press Ffion's hand and give Alistair courtly bows; which amused the ex-Templar to no end. The Wardens had both brought about their salvation and Pila was quick to circulate Ffion's great mercy and kind-heartedness; so much so that when the Warden spoke to Irving about Conner and Isolde, he had to turn mages away who wished to help. Instead he chose a band of five, including himself, and told her that they were ready to leave whenever she was. Her grey eyes went about the foyer of the Circle, wanting at least a little sleep and knowing that her sense of guilt would never allow it. She let out a sigh and nodded her head.

"Then we should move," She replied, "We left Redcliffe in a very uncertain position and though I know it's only been a few hours, it feels like we left weeks ago."

"Just a moment, please, Ffion," Wynne cut in and then looked at Irving, "I'd like permission to go with you, Irving. I want to help this young woman with the Blight. Not just as part of the mages' support. If she will have me, I'd like to stay with her band while she gathers more forces."

Ffion blinked, not expecting that. She studied Wynne briefly and then smiled her first genuine smile in hours.

"I'd love to have you along, Wynne," She answered, "You'd be more than welcome."

Irving also studied his colleague. His expression was almost tender and when he spoke, it was gently chiding,

"You never did sit idle when there was work to be done. And although you will be greatly missed here, I think they need your help more than we do. Go with them, with my blessing."

"Then we shouldn't waste anymore time," Alistair cut in and his voice held all the urgency that Irving had felt about Conner's predicament.

Irving's chosen few took little to no time in gathering what they needed and they left the Circle, crossed the lake, and headed back down the road towards Redcliffe with haste. The sun had set completely, but traveling with a group of mages meant that they didn't have to waste torches. The air was warm in spite of the proximity to the lake and the moon and stars so bright, they probably would have been okay without Irving and Wynne lighting the path. They made good speed and the First Enchanter seemed none the worse for wear after his hardships.

After several hours, Ffion found herself stumbling along, half asleep, and Leliana had to catch her at least three or four times to keep her from eating the dirt road. She called a halt and they made a hasty camp. This time the Orlesian didn't take no for an answer and sat the Warden's watch herself so that Ffion could rest. Ffion offered a few halfhearted arguments but was asleep before her head hit the cloak she substituted for a pillow. And for the first time since she left Highever, she slept without dreaming.

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